Shark kills surfer on protected beach: The frailty of life and urgency of compassion

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Shark kills surfer on protected beach: The frailty of life and urgency of compassion

September 10, 2020 - Jim Denison, PhD

© Fiona/

A tiger shark opens its mouth while swimming underwater

© Fiona/

Nick Slater, age forty-six, was fatally mauled Tuesday off a beach protected by shark netting. His death is only the second fatal shark attack at one of the eighty-five beaches in Queensland, Australia, that have been protected by nets and drum lines since 1962. Sharks can swim under and around the nets, which is apparently what happened this week.

In other news, a dentist in New York City is seeing an epidemic of cracked teeth, sometimes six in a day. She attributes this to pandemic-induced stress, working from home with bad posture (which produces nerve problems in our jaws), and teeth-grinding during restless sleep at night. 

On a more positive note, guitar sales are booming. Fender is seeing the biggest year of sales volume in company history, and interest in guitar lessons on video is surging. The reason: as people are staying home during the pandemic, they are looking for something therapeutic to do. According to one neuroscientist, learning the guitar kindles hope and optimism, which helps regulate stable mood chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. 

What do these stories have in common?

How much is Zoom up this year? 

I recently participated in a Forbes webinar on digital transformation stocks. The presenter highlighted stocks in a variety of areas that illustrate the massive, disruptive changes happening right now as a result of digital technology. 

For example, he stated that Netflix has grown from a mail-order DVD company to a streaming giant whose shares are up 11,390 percent since 2009. The company added twenty-five million subscribers just during this year’s pandemic. (That’s a population larger than every American state except California and Texas). 

Other examples: 

  • Zoom video is up to three hundred million users, with shares up 307 percent since last year.
  • Teladoc Health shares are up 156 percent in 2020.
  • Peloton, the at-home workout platform, has grown 120 percent this year.
  • Apple’s shares have grown 73 percent this year.
  • Tesla is up an astounding 8,935 percent since its 2010 launch.
  • And Amazon’s cloud market is projected to reach $331 billion by next year. Its shares are up 86 percent in 2020.

However, the tech boom is not solving the problems that matter most. Marine biologists can do their best to protect us from sharks, but nature still finds a way to threaten us daily. Stress manifests in ways we do not see but our dentists do. Learning the guitar is therapeutic while we’re learning the guitar, but the broken world awaits us at the end of the session. 

When do we most need a shepherd? 

The psalmist prayed, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock” (Psalm 80:1a). God is the shepherd of his people right now, no matter what circumstances might indicate. When wolves attack us, we can blame the shepherd, or we can trust him. 

The wise choice is to pray with the psalmist, “You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up your might and come to save us! Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved!” (vv. 1b–3). 

We can trust our Good Shepherd because he “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He leads and heals us eternally, but he also leads and heals us temporally. 

The gospels give us approximately thirty-seven miracles performed by Jesus, each of them proof of his personal power. He continued his earthly ministry through his followers as his body on earth (1 Corinthians 12:27), healing the crippled in his name (cf. Acts 3:6–8) and even raising the dead (cf. Acts 20:9–12). 

What God does in us, he does through us. He used a crippled man to reach the multitude who witnessed his healing (Acts 3:9ff.). He works through changed lives to change lives. 

How should we respond when a house is on fire? 

Of course, telling lost people they are lost is extremely countercultural today. Offering biblical truth to those who do not believe in truth is “intolerant” and bigoted. 

In response, let’s consider an analogy offered by the nineteenth-century English preacher Charles Spurgeon

“If you were a fireman and found a person in an upper room and the house was on fire, would you not struggle with him rather than let him remain in the room and burn? You would say, ‘I will save you in spite of yourself.’ Perhaps the foolish would call you names and say, ‘Let me alone, why should you intrude into my chamber?’ But you would say, ‘Never mind my intrusion; I will apologize afterwards for my rudeness, but you must be out of the fire first.’ I pray God give you this blessed unmannerliness, this sweet casting of all things to the wind, if by any means you might save some.” 

According to Spurgeon, the more dangerous the fire, the more necessary the fireman. 

Do you agree?

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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